Thuistezien 227 — 06.04.2021

Radboud Mens
Onze Ambassade Festival

Rotterdam-based Radboud Mens is a sound artist, composer and sound designer that has been active since the 80s. As both a solo creator and a collaborator, he has released at least a couple dozen albums starting in the late 90s as part of a back catalogue spread across various mediums. His music has also made endless appearances on a wide array of compilation releases.

His early work in particular, showcases a knack for creating electronic music through glitch processes, in which snippets of faltering and corrupted audio – often captured from failing or damaged playback devices – are used as some of the core material that underpin his creations. His subsequent work remains influenced by this method of creation, and is extended by his use of acoustic sound sources (often coloured through digital sonic manipulations), generative sound creating processes, and synthesized drone textures. He gives birth to music that ranges from pulseless, minimalist and enchanting drones, to edgy and slow minimal techno with an industrial edge to it.

Despite his impressive musical output, Radbound Mens’s music is unfortunately often hidden just out of sight to the larger public. Referring to the album ‘1’, a collaboration between Radbound Mens and Matthijs Kouw released in 2017, Ambientblog’s Peter van Cooten in his review of the album states: ‘I hadn’t heard of […] the artists Radboud Mens or Matthijs Kouw before checking my inbox a few weeks ago. It was apparent within seconds of hearing [their album] that this ignorance was a huge shame on my part. […] the two ± 20 minute tracks that make up [the] collaborative release from the two artists are absolutely top draw, with evolution that burns slowly and brightly in a fantastic forty minutes of minimal perfection.’

For those that discover and let themselves sink into the sonic tapestries of Radbound Mens, they are usually entranced by his immersing musical world. His slow-moving drone works are often compared to the minimalist composers of the late 20th century such as Terry Rilley, La Monte Young, and even John Cage. But as we witness in his performance at West for the Onze Ambassade Festival 2019, his sonic textures also find shape within minimal electronic pulsing pieces which feature a rhythmic push to them. In this setting, electronic sounds at times gentle, other times industrial and harsh, are underpinned by rhythmic tics, clicks and pops and other digital percussive sounds, which seem as if emanating from unknown electronic devices that gently malfunction in magical moments of rhythmic unity. They don’t often sound quite like drum-machine-style beats, yet they play a similar role in giving the music a forward thrust and grounding the abstract sonic textures that float above and through them. And although you’ll find yourself calmy bobbing your head along with his music, you’re probably not going to jump up and dance. But that was never the music’s intention.

With his performance at West bathed in green and red flashing lights, it feels like you are drawn into a beautifully malfunctioning RGB screen. It’s intense visual stimuli, but inside it you can find refuge if you allow yourself to. Instead of presenting to you an orderly and well-functioning audiovisual world aided by electronics, Radbound Mens instead invites you into a world where electronics don’t always seem to work smoothly as anticipated. But within the tamed chaos is a situation of acceptance of the inevitable haphazard nature of our complex world. It is a view of the world that can seem a bit stressful or confusing at first as a listener, but when allowing yourself to fall into it proves calming and cleansing even. It entices us to come to peace with surroundings that are beyond our control. With this approach Radbound Mens finds a charming balance between calm chaos and dreamy floating textures. As his set unfolds from industrial soundscapes into calm minimalism, he draws you into the calm at the center of a digital storm: an introspective corner to hide in for a moment. It is a world that borrows from the corporeal nature of electronic dance music, but yet requires a moment of self-reflection amidst the tuned intensity. His music takes elements of dance music and pulls them away from the dance floor, allowing it to stimulate your imagination, emotions and brain in a delicate yet rewarding way as you drift away inside it.

Text: James Alexandropoulos - McEwan